SEO definitionSEO is about increasing your SERP (search engine results page) rankings. The process consists of things that you do directly to your website (on-page) and tasks you complete not on your website (off-page). Keyword research, backlink building and increasing your webpage loading speed are just some of the tasks you’ll complete on the road to higher SERP rankings. (If you need a good tool for keyword research, check out this post by Matthew Woodward). Rankings are determined by an algorithm that can take over 200 factors into account.
Why SEO is worth the hassleIf you aren’t sold on the merits of SEO it’s a good idea to look at the advantages. The stakes are huge for gaining market share in the online arena. You will consider investing heavily into SEO after getting through this list: More buyers: The difference between poor and good SERP rankings is similar to having a physical store location in a quiet town or in a busy shopping center. Search engines have the potential to deliver a horde of hungry buyers that your business relies on to meet a sales quota. Raise brand awareness: customers may search for your brand on Google and become hesitant to buy if it’s not there. The perception is that better quality brands are placed higher in the rankings for relevant key terms. Furthermore, you can raise brand awareness by optimizing for keywords that have informational search intent. Provide good quality informational content to position your brand as an authority in your field. Better user experience: the tasks you complete to improve SERP rankings also contribute to better user experience. This includes decreasing web page loading speed, creating relevant content and adding a useful internal linking structure. Higher conversion rates: Achieving high rankings for these keywords improves your overall conversion rate. Furthermore, once you complete on-page SEO tasks the user experience is improved and that also contributes to a higher conversion rate. Cheap form of marketing: SEO can be a relatively inexpensive form of marketing – especially if you complete most of the tasks in-house. You could pay an SEO agency to get the ball rolling, but the fees are small compared to the potential returns down the line. On the other hand, marketing like PPC can require hordes of cash before you see a consistent return. Gain market share: a portion of search engine traffic delivers customers that would not have found you through other marketing channels. Therefore, you can increase market share by investing in good SERP rankings.
Keyword researchKeyword research is the first step of any SEO campaign. This phase helps you spot cost-effective opportunities where the competition is relatively low but there is decent search volume. You can use paid keyword research tools to gain access to hundreds of target keywords that are worth going after. Searching for keywords involves looking at the ease of ranking versus the search volume. The idea is to find the golden keywords that offer excellent search volume with little competition. The type of competition you can take on depends on your funds, resources and expertise. You’ll need to evaluate the top listings to see what you’re up against. Search volume determines the number of people searching for a specific keyword. Looking at search volume can clue you in on the demand for a particular market. Note that going after the most popular keyword of a niche is not always the best strategy. You can go after long-tail keywords, which are longer and more specific phrases that typically have less competition. Long-tail keywords account for 70% of traffic so it’s a worthwhile strategy. You can increase your chances of being found by aligning your keywords to search intent in our article on Using Search Intent to Boost SEO Performance.
On-page optimizationOn-page optimization can improve SERP rankings and makes your website easier to use. Here is a list of the basic optimization tasks you can complete directly on your website: Title tags: the title tag is what stands out the most on your SERP listing. It must contain your target keyword but in a natural manner. Good SEO practice also takes the end-user experience into account. Furthermore, the title length should be 40-70 characters for best results. Meta descriptions: there is less of a direct ranking effect from meta descriptions, but writing effective ones improves CTR. Higher CTR’s, in turn, improve your rankings so you’ll get an indirect boost. To avoid a high bounce rate make sure that the meta description is an accurate portrayal of what your web page is about. Body content optimization: create sharable content that users will link to from all around the internet. It creates backlinks that improve your SERP rankings. Also, use your target and secondary keywords naturally. It’s important to avoid keyword stuffing since that will penalize your website ranking. Bold and italicize keywords to draw attention to the important words on a page. Google pays attention to these and it also makes skim-reading easier for the audience. URL structure: target keywords should be included in the URL structure. It contributes towards helping the ranking algorithm figure out what your page is about. That’s also good practice for helping users share links and navigate around your website. Image optimization: spiders crawling your website cannot determine what an image is about so they look at the alt tags for information. You need to populate these with an accurate description that includes target keywords. Also, the image filename and title should contain keywords as they contribute some weight towards ranking webpages for target keywords. You’ll also rank images in the image search engine, which gives you extra traffic. However, this traffic typically doesn’t convert well. Page speed: decreasing page speed increases conversions because it improves the user experience. Since Google cares about user experience it’s widely known that page speed is a ranking factor. To decrease loading times you can decrease file size, compress images and fix errors. Have Yoast on your website? Read our Guide to Proper Yoast Setup to maximize your SEO.
BacklinksLink building is the backbone of a good SEO campaign. The core principle that the Google search engine was built on is backlinks. They act as a vote from the website where the link is created to the one it’s targeting. Before you understand the art of creating backlinks let’s break down why not all backlinks are created equally.
- Anchor text: this is the text that makes up the backlink. It might be the URL of the target page, a target keyword or a descriptive phrase such as: “click here to find out more”. Ideally, your target keywords should be in the anchor text and use a diverse range of keywords for natural link building.
- Link source: the webpage your incoming backlink is located determines the weight of the vote. Ideally, backlinks should be placed on authority websites in your niche so they are relevant. Also, link diversity is important, which means that incoming links should originate from various websites.